Home » Online Exclusives » Streamline Material Flows with a Connected Jobsite

Streamline Material Flows with a Connected Jobsite

BY DEXTER BACHELDER, VICE PRESIDENT, COMMAND ALKON
A MEMBER OF MULTIPLE AGC CHAPTERS

The construction industry has long issued paper purchase orders (POs), which, in theory, flow from a buyer to a material supplier to confirm orders for construction materials. They also routinely use manual, paper-based processes to track tickets generated as materials move from plant to jobsite.

But, in an information-intensive industry like construction, paper documents are often a hazard since they can disappear and be difficult — or impossible — to locate, share or distribute in their correct, most recent version. Paper documents can often become damaged or smeared, making them impossible to read and use.

The move from paper-based POs to electronic orders can be a lifesaver for most construction businesses, many of whom are already moving to digitize their paper-based processes for better transparency and increased productivity. Digitizing paper enhances communication. It helps to avoid delays and waste by ensuring all parties involved — including contractors, suppliers, haulers, logistics providers and buyers — are on the same page, working from the most recent document.

TECHNOLOGY FOR DIGITIZATION

Given the number of parties involved in construction projects today, excellent communication and information-sharing are critical to keeping all parties on track. A collaborative platform that connects the construction ecosystem of suppliers and contractors empowers all parties with visibility up and down the supply chain. Each stakeholder connects to the platform to share valuable information, like status of materials within supply chain processes.

Digitization is the backbone of a connected jobsite. It orchestrates heavy material movements, job cost tracking, order and yield management, and provides traceability and quality assurance insights. Information shared digitally across project team members boosts productivity, safety and project outcome certainty. Digitization ultimately generates more timely and accurate data, enabling faster, more intelligent business decisions.

Missed or delayed shipments of materials to jobsites can cause the project to be delayed with workers hanging around waiting. If project managers knew that the delivery would be late gained from having visibility into supply chain processes, they could reassign workers or divert another shipment of materials to the jobsite.

A connected jobsite utilizes an electronic material ticket management system that eliminates the dependence on paper tickets which are used to track materials and truck assets. Electronic transactions of these paper-ticket processes help buyers to more efficiently reconcile which goods were accepted against invoices. With quicker invoice reconciliation, faster settlement and payment occurs, making suppliers very happy and more willing to do business with your company.

Tracking materials through the jobsite is more efficient with digitization because paperwork is never lost. Some materials are fitted with sensors that can be read by Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These devices gather data and send the information to back office processes, like invoice settlement. Contractors can reduce materials and trucking costs because of greater efficiencies gained through automation of the ticketing and invoicing processes.

BENEFITS GAINED FROM A CONNECTED JOBSITE

Modernized transactions via digital formats of certain processes help to improve productivity and materials savings by better managing materials yield. By knowing in real-time when materials leave the plant and enter a jobsite, contractors reduce product and time waste by having their crew and machinery ready to accept and begin working with the materials. Other benefits of digital transactions include:

• Generates an electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) that can be used for compliance documentation and to help with damage claims.
• Streamlines the real-time delivery process.
• Integrates the buying, receiving and accounting for materials to simplify the procure to pay process and speed reconciliation.
• Provides real-time visibility of material quantities and job expenses.
• Proactively provides customers with shipping status and expected delivery times for improved customer service.

COVID-19 AND DIGITIZATION

In today’s COVID-19 world, many construction players are having to navigate working remotely from home, fueling the demand for more cloud computing, collaboration services, mobility tools and platforms, and big data services. Without a digitized platform and tools that connect the construction ecosystem, businesses are hindered by lack of productivity and efficiency. Teams can communicate and collaborate more with digitized solutions, no matter where they are. If access to orders, trucking timecards, material lists and reports are needed, with these tools, your business will have the information it needs to track job, material and labor costs on a daily basis.

By utilizing electronic tickets, operations will stay in sync as the materials pass from order entry to batch results to delivery status to electronic proof of delivery to inspection and test results through invoice and payment processing — all without requiring human hand-offs.

In the wake of the pandemic, construction businesses are finding they can maintain business continuity because of the digital transformation of their operations. Using advanced tools, such as eTicketing solutions, helps firms continue to do business and improve safety, which is imperative in the age of COVID-19. Many companies experienced bottlenecks in their operations as a result of the pandemic. Implementing digital technologies that connect every inch of the construction supply chain ensure that operations can push forward despite the challenges that this virus — and any major supply chain disruption that’s to come — presents.

Dexter Bachelder is vice president at Command Alkon, a member of multiple AGC chapters. Visit www.commandalkon.com for more information.